On Dangerous Ground (1951)

Directed by Nicholas Ray, written by A.I. Bezzerides (screenplay), Gerald Butler (novel)

“How do you live with yourself?”
“I don’t. I live with other people.”

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Straight-laced detective Jim Wilson (Robert Ryan) is drowning in a corrupt world, slowly losing his sanity as he physically beats criminal after criminal. Ordered to take a break from the city, he’s assigned to a murder investigation in the country. As he tracks his murderer with the help of the rabid Walter Brent (Ward Bond), who’s lost a daughter to the killer, he’s shown sympathy by Mary Malden (Ida Lupino).

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The film eschews a few of the standard noir stereotypes, such as the complicated plot and the smoking hot seductress, but the mental condition of our main character along with the sordid world fits right in with the genre, not to mention the stark photography. Our detective is a good man tortured by his place in a negative world, and right from the beginning we know we’re witnessing a few moments of his last stand before he gives up entirely. His forced trip out of the city and into the open countryside, along with meeting the blind, attractive Mary, may be his final chance to leave the path to oblivion.

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It’s a fantastic, beautiful film, and it offers an element generally missing from noir: redemption.

“To get anything out of this life, you’ve got to put something in it. From the heart.”

4+ (5-) stars

 

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